Coaching Basketball: How Do You Deal With An Assistant Coach Who Oversteps Their Bounds?

This is one of those tricky situations that nobody wants to deal with. However, it can be easier than you think. And for the best interests of your players, it's critical to get the situation under control.

When you have an assistant that oversteps their bounds, it almost always comes down to a management issue that can be easily solved. As a head coach, you need to set clear expectations and roles for your assistant. Then communicate those roles.

I suggest the following actions to remedy the problem...
  • Sit down with him/her. Review expectations. Talk about your stance on things so you both get aligned.

  • Give your assistant specific responsibilities. If they over-step their boundaries, perhaps it's because they don't know their responsibilities. If your assistant is really good at defense, put them in charge of defense or maybe they can do stats, film, and so on.

    It's important to consider your assistant's strengths. Then it's your job to put the assistant coach in the position to use those strengths to benefit the program.

  • Just like coaching players, you need to give your assistants clear and defined roles and responsibilities. Document those roles and review them with your assistants. It's very important for this information to be documented in writing. Then routinely review expectations. Regularly scheduled weekly and monthly meetings will definitely help keep everyone in check!

  • You can also try daily huddles with assistants. This just takes 5-10 minutes. Each day you huddle and you ask each person - what's your priority for the day? Are you stuck on anything? What are your key metrics for the day? Some coaches will have key metrics to review daily (rebounds, shooting percentage, attendance, etc). This huddle should be done very quickly and efficiently. Everyone should stand up the whole time to keep things moving quickly.
Managing assistant coaches is just like managing employees in a business. The same management tactics work. In a business, you document procedures for an employee. You document and define expectations and roles for that employee. You implement key metrics to measure the performance of that employee. You have regularly scheduled meetings with that employee to review goals, expectations, metrics, performance, and progress. You hold that employee accountable and communicate with them.

Bottom line, set expectations and roles with your assistants. Meet with them on a fairly regular basis. Give it a shot and you'll end up with a much smoother and productive basketball program. And happier coaches too!




Comments

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Youth Coach says:
3/30/2019 at 3:07:00 PM

I am the head coach of a youth team. With 14 players ages 5-7 it helps to have an assistant. For two years it went well but this year the writing is on the wall that they play politics with other parents and have created a nucleus of children that they are going to take and create a travel team with half our players. It’s frustrating to volunteer your time and have the assistant politic behind your back to take players onto a travel team. It isn’t the players leaving that bothers me as I understand the travel teams offer better competition and more opportunities to play, it’s the backdoor nature that bothers me. My child plays the minimum and plays hard though not the best athlete. Because it’s inevitable that they’ll leave I’ve debated bringing up what has become obvious. The assistant is one my child’s best friends parents so there is a level of awkwardness in making this an ordeal.

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Jeff Haefner says:
3/31/2019 at 12:08:06 PM

This is not uncommon at all. It can be frustrating! And I'm not condoning what happened, I think the parent should be upfront with you as the coach even it can be an uncomfortable conversions for some. It shouldn't be uncomfortable, but for some reason, it is for many.

With that said, I think you give the parent the benefit of the doubt and I certainly would not make an ordeal about it. He/she might not realize it would bother you. And in the grand scheme of things... it's not a big deal. It's just basketball. 5-7 year olds at that. Just let them have fun and help the kids learn how to be a good people (honest, kind, etc).

There are some many bigger and more important problems in the world to be concerned with. My advice is to assume the parent had the best of intentions and it's nothing. If fact, you can't blame a parent for wanting what they think it best for their child.

Navigating the youth sports world is challenging and all the parents have different goals, perceptions, and want different things for their kids. I would not worry about it. If you stay in youth sports, this won't be the last time something like this happens.

Now if this is a friend, you might want to them as a friend, if this hurt you. Approach it tactically and just let them know you really respect them and wished you would have talked to you. You would have understood.

I wouldn't want you to lose out on a friendship because of something like this.

Good luck!

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Jonathan says:
12/30/2018 at 6:20:23 PM

I am new to the district in which I am coaching and had an assistant coach appointment for me. Out of politeness, I also told the team's former coach that he is welcome to be there and help out whenever he can. I give them both responsibilities and allow them to run some drills at practice, trying to keep them actively involved. But, now that our season has started, I am having trouble during timeouts and at halftime. One immediately jumps in and begins talking at each timeout and the other attempts to take over during halftime. Players are looking strangely at both of them because they continue to talk when I begin addressing the team. I am talking with both at our next practice and am going to tell them that we as coaches will talk briefly during these times, but that I will be the one addressing the team. If that doesn't work, anyone have any suggestions? Both are long winded and don't really have the players attention.

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Jeff says:
1/2/2019 at 12:02:13 PM

Come up with a structure for timeouts and half time. Explain the plan to the assistant coaches and also hand it to them so they have it on paper. A sample structure for half time could be:
- 2 minutes (coaches chat: head coach asks: what is working? what is not workout? any adjustments to make?)
- assistant 1 has 2 min to cover defense
- assistant 2 has 2 min to cover offense
- head coach has 4 min to cover everything else

With that said, I don't think there is enough time for all that. We used to have one assistant talk about defense for a couple minutes and then have the head coach for the rest.

The assistants need defined expectations. I would probably tell the assistants that you as head coach will talk during the whole timeout and only assistant talk if the coach addresses them. I wouldn't even let them talk briefly if they are long winded and don't understand YOU are in charge. There just isn't enough time for everyone to chime in and I would think this would just confuse the players. Usually you can only give them 2 or 3 things to focus on during a timeout. Otherwise it's just in one ear and out the other (information overload).

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Alex says:
12/29/2018 at 3:26:11 AM

I just finished an undefeated season with the boys 7th grade team! I was the only coach for this season. Now I’m coaching girls basketball and the season starts in a few weeks. I’m working with an assistant coach who can sometimes over step what I’m trying to do. I’m curious if Any of you would keep him or cut him before the season starts and look for a replacement? Let me know what you would do!
Thanks any help would be great!

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Jeff says:
1/2/2019 at 12:09:07 PM

That is a decision you'll have to make based on the situation. I would consider cutting if the coach was causing too many problems. But ideally you give the coach defined expectations and learn how to to work together. I'm sure intentions are probably good and expectations probably just need defined.

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Rose says:
6/23/2018 at 11:36:45 AM

I am a middle school teacher and stepped up to be the head volleyball coach this year. I played a few years in school but I am definitely not an expert. The athletic coordinator hired an assistant coach who was a elementary volunteer coach and who has a daughter who will be on the team.

The assistant coach already assume his daughter and all of the players from his school will make the team. We usually have 40 plus girls tryout for 22 spots. Practices start the last couple weeks of summer, but he sent me a text saying he is already working with 5-7 girls nightly and wants to send out an email to invite others to start coming to his friends private gym to build team unity.

I do not want to start until the published date that we put out because I have other things going on and I feel that those who don’t come all summer will feel left out once tryouts begin. I’m concerned that he is basically taking over because of the connection he has with players through his daughter.

I do not really know any of the volleyball players and I certainly want to build a strong team, but I also don’t think it’s right to have unofficial practices all summer long when we put out that tryouts started the end of July. I can’t go to these summer practices so I think it would be weird if the girls spent all summer with assistant coach and then they don’t even meet me as the head coach until the end of summer. Should I tell the assistant coach that he is welcome to do whatever as a parent, but as an assistant coach our team start date is July 23?

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Jeff says:
6/25/2018 at 10:10:54 AM

Yes that's what I would probably do. If he wants to do something as a parent or club coach... that's up to him. But the school team starts on "xyz date".

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Thomas Saunders says:
5/16/2017 at 5:09:16 PM

A coach needs assistants to help carry out their goals. It is important that communication happens between the coaching staff following the direction of the coach. Assistants can provide expertise or different viewpoints, and help to explain to the coach how the team or coaching may improve. Allowing a parent to coach is also a rewarding experience for the parent/player. Coaching is not a dictatorship, it is a cooperative.

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Coach L says:
4/21/2017 at 7:52:14 PM

I have an assistant with whom I have communicated my expectations and tried to give him clear roles and places. He refuses to follow expectations and buy in to the philosophies and goals I have for the program. He tries arguing with me about every decision I make and he clearly defies what I ask. He does not communicate with me; for example he missed a practice and didn''t tell me he was going to miss. He also has a lack of basketball fundamental knowledge. I continually had to go behind him and correct the form that he was teaching my players, even though it was something that I demonstrated every practice. I have communicated with my AD who insists that I learn to deal with his personality. I''m not sure exactly what to do or how to handle the situation. I feel like every step forward there''s a step backward with an already suffering program.

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Jeff says:
4/24/2017 at 9:16:21 AM

That's a tough one.

I would at the very least document the dates and descriptions of these violations. That way if you really want this person off your staff, you have more effective pitch and you generally need that documented any time you let someone go.

Beyond that, I don't think there's a good answer. Have to take each situation and handle as professionally and effectively as you can.

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Ken Sartini says:
6/24/2014 at 7:49:18 AM

Maire -

I agree with Joe here. This is a difficult situation at best. Talk with him and ask for some advice regarding the way things are done at the school.

The next thing I would do is to have a meeting with the players and parents and talk about your expectations, your tules and the rules of the district. Talk about the goals of the program and where you would like to see it go.

Frankly I don't see why he wants to be part of this after having to step down UNLESS you have a good relationship with him. When I retired I helped the program for 1 more year but we got along well.

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Jeff Haefner says:
6/24/2014 at 6:55:13 AM

Marie - Have you tried talking with him and explaining that you have very different philosophies (as you did in this post)?

If you are matter of fact and very respectful of him (maybe even compliment him and even ask advice about something like motivation, etc.), he'll probably understand and hopefully start to back you. There's nothing wrong with his philosophy but you have a different background and different system. And you want to train coaches with a fresh slate your system.

Most coaches understand that there are lots of different systems out there and each coach has a different way of going about things. You want to start building and like to do things you're own way.

And I'd humbly ask for his help talking with the players to get them on board with the new system. But ask him once season starts of he could stay behind the scenes so you could start your own path of learning and coaching. Just some thoughts.

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Marie says:
6/24/2014 at 1:13:28 AM

I am currently taking over a program as a head coach. I've already established my coaching staff, however the head coach of the program last year is interested in continuing to be a part of the program. We have very different coaching philosophies. I have thanked him for his offer and declined his help but he is very persistent and won't let up. He has already communicated to the players and parents in his own way that he was pushed out of the program and that the new head coach does not want him. Because of this, the players and parents are extremely upset and some players are refusing to play next season. He feels since he started this program (new school) that he deserves to stay and continue to coach and build the program. My only position that I have open is an assistant to a lower level coach. I am concerned that if I offer this position to him and he decides to take it that he will try and undermine me and cause more problems than need be even if I do discuss with him what his role and responsibilities will be. My questions are, do you think it would be wise of me to keep him in the program or not and if not, how do I explain to him that although he did start the program last year his services are not needed anymore?

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Ken Sartini says:
1/30/2014 at 11:51:02 AM

As Asst coach, I have always valued and known my place, and Coach has always kept me in communication with plans, strategies, and issues with the student athletes, and especially making sure the kids know I am there to help as well.

What happened that made things change?? There is always the good guy, (the asst.) and the bad guy, (the head coach) it goes with the territory.

What does an Asst do when Coach starts to play "favorites" ( athlete, who is now chosen Captain, is a personal friend of the Coaches family, yet also "the least athletic member of the team" (coaches words) and also concerning:

What level are we talking about? High school? Since he is the head coach, he gets to make all these decisions, right or wrong, As long as its not immoral.

(1. ONE athlete is worked with for 20 minutes to get the same skill three other athletes should also be working on,

2. its ok for a Captain to miss a game for a social outing:

I wouldn't think so but then again I don't know what the entire situation is. It might be something special that the coach gave the ok to a long time ago?

3. One athlete (and best friend of the 2 Captains) is allowed to arrange a fundraiser at her place of employment, including directing the other teammates via social networking.
Yet, another athlete joins a non- profit organization''s Team as a Team Leader, invites all family, friends and includes Teammates to join her with this activity, AFTER asking Coach and Captains permission, but Coach berates the Athlete for "stepping on Captains toes" )

Why would he do that IF he (the coach) gave his permission and the captain gave her permission also? You might just say something on the side about the Captains were ok with this and EVERYONE was included to join if they chose to. ???

and most critically, leaves the Asst as LAST in the line of communication: communicates daily (in private) with Captains, but leaves Asst out of the conversations, makes it clear in a text to athletes that communication runs from athletes to Captains to Coach, who will discuss with Captains and decide, then Asst will get the communication, then wonders why the Captains don't have a repoire with Asst Coach.

Besides leaving the position, what does an Asst do?

Why don't you sit down and have a meeting with him and ask him what your responsibilities are first? Then you might ask why you aren't getting a CC of his communications with the team. I am a firm believer of being Loyal... but IF you feel like you cant handle this anymore, you can always go to the AD and tell him/her that you are resigning from the assts. job. Then you can let him ask you why....

I would leave out the personal thing about the Captain and the social event...... I would think that the rest of the team would be unhappy about that already. A little side note, I only coached girls for one year, sophomore level.... one of my starters comes up to me and says she has to leave practice early tomorrow... WHY ? I have to take my little brother trick or treating. OK, that was a first.... but was I going to say no? Heck no.... I just told her that he has to bring me a candy bar tomorrow..... we laughed ( the team ) all was well and I got my candy bar the next day. Sometimes we have to be flexible.

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